On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado placed attorney Michael R. O’Connell on probation for mishandling settlement funds.

The case is entitled “People v. Michael R. O’Connell” with case no. 23PDJ044.

The charges cited Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.15A(b) and 8.4(d) which states:

A lawyer must act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.

On receiving funds or other property of a client or third person, a lawyer must promptly deliver to the client or third person any funds that person is entitled to receive.

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The disciplinary action came as a result of  O’Connell’s mishandling of settlement funds and failure to adhere to court orders during his representation in probate cases. The trouble began in 2020 when O’Connell represented a client in two probate cases involving his client’s two minor grandchildren. O’Connell’s client was appointed conservator for both cases, with the responsibility of safeguarding the children’s share of settlement proceeds from a personal injury case litigated by O’Connell himself.

An oversight in O’Connell’s handling of the funds came to light when $95.00 remained in his trust account until June 2023. Despite agreements and bank forms stipulating that the funds were restricted, they were not actually treated as such. During his representation, O’Connell failed to file necessary proposed orders as mandated by the court, neglected to ensure proper management of the children’s accounts, and did not ensure compliance with court orders regarding conservatorship responsibilities. Additionally, he failed to withdraw from the probate cases despite missing two court-ordered hearings.

The situation reached a critical point in February 2022 when the court ordered O’Connell and his client to appear and explain their failure to comply with previous orders. During the hearing, it was revealed that the client had spent portions of the settlement funds for personal use, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in misappropriation. In a bid to rectify the situation, O’Connell made payments of $7,500.00 to each of the minor beneficiaries in August 2023. These payments were provided to the new conservator appointed in place of O’Connell’s client.

The Disposition states:

“The Presiding Disciplinary Judge approved the parties’ stipulation to discipline and suspended Michael R. O’Connell(attorney registration number34803) for ninety days, all to stay upon a two-year period of probation with conditions.”

According to avvo.com, Mr. O’connell is a personal injury Attorney in Golden, Colorado. He attended the University of Maryland School of Law. He acquired his law license in Colorado in 2003.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.